We all know that funding, exposure and recognition are on the ‘could do better’ list for women in cycling. However, every year new races announce their intention to support the growth that’s taking place, and women’s cycling is undoubtably on an upward trajectory.
‘Is it ethically right that you can promote them [Para-athletes] as elites, but not provide the same prize pot?’
One recent change that drew loud applause was the introduction of equal prize money to the men’s and women’s Team Time Trial races at the UCI World Championships – thus resulting in a full house of equality across the genders as the Road Race and Time Trial events already enjoyed parity.
Whilst we were thrilled to see this change, the progression also drew attention to an area that’s suffering much greater inequality: Para-cycling. On the day of the announcement, 27 time World Champion across para-swimming and para-cycling Dame Sarah Storey, pointed out that there is currently no prize money at the UCI Para Cycling World Champs.
Storey is the athlete representative on the UCI Para-cycling commission, which is responsible for looking after the interests of riders, as well as drawing up the calendar of events. Speaking to us at an event to promote her road cycling trade team, Podium Ambition, Storey explained that cycling differs from sports such as swimming and athletics because the governing body manages Para-sport as well as able bodied sport and is therefore responsible for, and able to change, major events such as the World Champs.
Though she appreciates organisers can’t always offer large prize funds at races sponsored by outside organisations, she felt the UCI needed to look at their policies: “It’s a big issue across all Para-sport, there isn’t the same sponsorship and investment to create a prize money pot. But you have to say that those specific events – for example where it’s a UCI World Championships: ‘is it ethically right that you can promote them as elites, but not provide the same prize pot?’”
She added that though she’d like to see more prize money available, it wasn’t first on the agenda. Not interested in “moaning” about what currently isn’t available, Storey is more concerned with searching out avenues for improvement: “At the moment in Para-cycling we’re struggling to find organisers for the World Championships full stop. So prize money becomes a much lower priority. But could we make integration part of the process in the World Champs?”
Para-cycling and able bodied World Championships are held as two separate events. The 2015 World Championships for able bodied athletes took place in Richmond, in September last year whilst the Para-cycling World Champs were in July and August, in Nottwil, Switzerland. This year they’ll also be separate events, and the same is true of the track competitions. Storey believes that it’s the segregation of the events that needs to change first, before we discuss prize money.
“We need more integration and we need to push Para-cylcing forward.”
Holding the events together works in other sports – Storey said: “In rowing the Para-rowers compete at the same World Championships and the different classifications are interspersed among the non-disabled athletes, giving more rest to those who are doing multiple events. There’s certainly a possibility for an integrated track World Championships. A few little subtle changes would need to be made to the regulations around warm up time and a few practical things to make it work. But it’s something that as a UCI Para-cycling Commission Athlete rep I’ve raised this a lot – we need more integration and we need to push Para-cylcing forward.”